How to Hand Applique

Three Parts:Cutting a MotifReadying the FabricHand-Turning the Applique

Hand-turned applique is a method for adhering an ornamental shape onto a fabric project. You will use a needle and thread to stitch the motif onto the fabric. It is often used on quilts, pillowcases and clothing.

Part 1
Cutting a Motif

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    Choose a shape you want to applique onto another piece of fabric. You can trace a pattern from a book or purchase a plastic shape from a craft store. Try a simple, curved shape for your first hand-turned applique.
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    Trace the design onto a square of freezer paper. Lay the shiny side face down on the shape and draw onto it with pencil. Cut the shape out of the freezer paper with paper scissors.
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    Heat up your iron on a medium setting. Smooth your piece of applique fabric onto the top of the ironing board, with the front of the fabric facing up. Set the freezer paper template on the fabric with the shiny side down.
    • Iron the freezer paper onto the fabric. The shiny side will lightly adhere to the fabric so that you can cut the fabric out to shape.[1]
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    Draw around the freezer paper shape, leaving a one-fourth inch (0.6cm) allowance outside of the shape. This is the fabric you will turn under while you sew the applique onto the main piece of fabric.
    • Use cotton fabric for your first applique. It is thin and easy to hand-turn.
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    Cut along the outline you just drew with your sharp fabric scissors. Later on, if you use applique patterns with several pieces, you will want to adhere them with freezer paper, outline them and cut them all at once to ensure your fabric pattern matches up.[2]

Part 2
Readying the Fabric

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    Purchase 60 wt. cotton thread for stitching your applique. Ensure the thread matches the fabric on your applique piece. It does not need to match the fabric underneath.
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    Ready your main fabric, such as a pillowcase, bag or piece of clothing. The best time to applique is when your fabric is still a single layer, before you construct a garment. It will ensure your stitches are hidden in the final product.
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    Smooth out your fabric. Choose the position for your applique motif. Pin through the applique and the freezer paper with applique pins.
    • Use applique pins every half-inch to inch (1.3 to 2.5cm) to ensure it stays still while you sew.
    • Your freezer paper will serve as a guide while you sew. You will want to turn the fabric under until the fabric is flush with the side of the freezer paper.
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    Thread your sewing needle with a medium to long piece of cotton thread. Use twice as much thread as the area you want to sew. Loop the end several times at the bottom and double or triple knot it.
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    Get comfortable. Most people hand applique when they are sitting in a chair. You can easily lay your fabric on your lap and turn it with your hands as you make progress.
    • Use a thimble to reduce the wear on your hands.

Part 3
Hand-Turning the Applique

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    Anchor your thread to your fabric by inserting the needle through the bottom of the fabric and pulling it taut.
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    Start on a curved edge of the applique shape, instead of at the edges.
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    Use a slip stitch to turn the fabric under. Place your stitches one-eighth inch (3mm) apart.[3] A slip-stitch is also called a blind stitch because it is hidden in the between two folds of fabric.
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    Hold your needle parallel to the fabric so you keep your stitches small. Insert it one-eighth inch into the fabric. Pick up just a few threads with your needle as you make a forward stitch and pull the thread through.
    • When doing hand applique, you aim to insert the needle at the edge of where your freezer paper is, so that the outside fabric is turned in as you stitch.
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    Return your stitch backwards along the line of the freezer paper a few millimeters. Use a toothpick or stiletto for turning edges to help turn the fabric outside of the paper under the paper outline.[4]
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    Repeat as you go around your applique. Take your time so that you ensure your allowance is neatly turned under your shape. Make your stitches as close as possible around corners.
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    Knot the thread when you finish and reach the point at which you started. Knot the end of the thread and clip it. Pull off your freezer paper.

Things You'll Need

  • Fabric
  • Fabric pen
  • Fabric scissors
  • Freezer paper
  • Template/pattern
  • Cotton fabric
  • 60 wt. cotton thread
  • Applique pins
  • Sewing needle
  • Thimble
  • Toothpick/stiletto

Article Info

Categories: Fabric and Clothing Decoration